Is the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ souring your time with your baby?

Is the difference between ‘can’t’ and ‘won’t’ souring your time with your baby?

This is a question I’ve pondered before and I’ve found myself back there again today. Today, it was a mix of my own way of talking and thinking about my baby and toddler but also listening to a mummy of a very young baby and toddler venting.

My contributions were-

 ‘why won’t you go to bloody sleep?’ While trying to convince my wonder weeking wonder that sleep was indeed what his cranky arse needed.

And ‘I just got you to bloody sleep! Why won’t you just stay there!! It’s your fault you woke up and now I need to get the baby down.’ After my cranky toddler didn’t transfer from car to bed as I’d hoped.

The mummy with the little baby contributed-

 ‘she won’t sleep anywhere but on the boob at the moment.’

 And ‘even when I’ve gotten her enough sleep, she still won’t be happy. She’s always cranky right now.’


Now it may all sound a bit nitpicky but trying to change these thoughts from ‘won’t’ statements to ‘can’t’ statements can actually really help you mentally while working through the many frustrations we face with our babes.

The reason for this is that by using the word ‘won’t’ we are inadvertently implying that our baby can do whatever it is that is giving us the shits but they are choosing to be a little arsehole who will not take this option.

By choosing the word ‘can’t’ instead, we are able to acknowledge that our baby, while still giving us the shits is currently unable to simply do whatever it is we desire. Therefore, we are able to see they are not actually being an arsehole who chooses to make our life hard but a small person who is in fact struggling with an action.

This difference can really shape your current relationship with our baby or toddler (certainly not irreversibly) and as I learned first hand, YOU are the one in control here.

You have so many things that aren’t within your control as a mama that sometimes I think it’s really important to reflect on what is. Two things in our power and control at all times are our thoughts and actions.

We can choose to focus on meeting our baby at their point of need and accept that at this moment they simply can not do everything we ask or desire or we can focus on where we think they should be and grow ever more frustrated that they won’t live up to these unrealistic expectations.

So here’s our challenge. Think of all the ‘won’ts’ you are currently putting on our baby and turn them around and rework our thoughts into ‘can’t’ statements. 

Let’s rework our expectations.

Here are some more possible ‘won’t’ moments that may be in your world …

• Baby won’t self settle

• Baby won’t be put down

• Baby won’t sleep in bassinet/ cot

• Baby won’t sleep for more than 20-40 minutes

• Baby won’t resettle.

• Baby won’t sleep without boob

• Baby won’t stay lying in cot

• Baby won’t stay asleep unswaddled

• Baby won’t play alone.

• Baby won’t go to strangers

• Baby won’t settle for anyone but mum

• Baby won’t stop crying in the car

• Baby won’t stop moving/ crying while you try to get them to sleep

Now we’ve clued in and identified our thoughts, let’s try to make the mental shift away from all that they won’t do to what they simply cannot do right now. If they could the would. They can’t so let’s give them and ourselves some grace.

Breathe a little and rest easy knowing that while our little people cannot do these things, before we know it, they’ll be grown and will have mastered these and many more accomplishments all in their own time.

Accept. Breathe in. Rest easy. This too shall pass. 

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